Instructions for Legal Name Change in Massachusetts

George Washington Monument, Boston Common, Massachusetts

You can definitely change your name in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for various reasons. There are different documents to be filled for all scenarios and it's important to know a number of things before starting the process.

Marriage name change

Before you can begin changing your name in Massachusetts after marriage you must go through the process of marriage as required by the state law. Begin by filing for a "Marriage Intention" that will help you to get a "Marriage License."

Remember you must be 18 years old, minimum, to show marriage intentions. The applicants must appear in person at the city or town clerk's office where they should then complete the marriage intention form to access a license.

A marriage intention document in the state cannot be processed through the mail or Internet but in person. It's also important for both parties to avail valid photo ID issued by the government for identification, such as a passport, state ID and a driver's license.

Both applicants also need to complete the form with their social security numbers. The marriage intention and marriage license document attracts a $4 to $15 application fee that can be paid through debit or credit card, money order, or cash at the time the form is being filed. Debit or credit transactions may incur a surcharge.

In Massachusetts, applicants must wait for three mandatory calendar days between the time they've filed the intention and the date of picking the license in person. The date when the marriage license is to be collected is usually indicated on a white card that is given after filing the intention.

Remember that to be married within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you must have a marriage license that has been obtained within the state. A license from another state, territory, or country isn't acceptable.

Use the small white card provided to pick your marriage license before the wedding and hand it to the officiant performing the wedding ceremony. Please verify that the information on the license is correct.

After the wedding, the marriage has to be registered by completing and signing the marriage license using black ink before returning it to the town or city clerk who issued it in the first place. Return it by the tenth day of the next month. Only the sections allowed should be filled.

Once the license, dully completed, has been received by the clerk from the officiant, certified copies that you've paid for will be provided. Certified copies may also be ordered from the central Massachusetts Vital Records office.

The license is valid for two months or sixty days from the date the marriage intention was applied. You can be married within any town or city in the state if you have stuck to the right process that starts with a marriage intention application and culminated into a license.

To effect a name change you need to approach the town or city where you applied for the marriage license, ask for a certified copy and continue to change your name. You can go with any of the following options after marriage:

Remain with your name as it is

The easiest option to go with is to maintain your name as it is; remain with the name you received at birth.

Adopt husband's name

The most common traditional option is the bride taking the last name of the husband using the certified copy of the marriage license and changing all documents including the details with the Social Security Administration and on her driver's license. This means you can continue using your name once you have changed it as it reflects on the marriage certificate.

Make your surname middle name

A bride can make her maiden name the middle name while taking the last name of her spouse.

Hyphenate

You can also decide not to drop your name for various reasons such as business by using both your middle name and the last name of your spouse with a hyphen.

Husband can take wife's name

If you are a husband and thinking about adopting the name of your wife through marriage you can do so in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Divorce name change

Through a divorce you can also change your name without going through the general adult name change process that attracts a fee. In the divorce petition you will come across a box that can be ticked to request the court to allow you to resume a prior name or a previous married name.

In case you don't want to return to a previous name but a new one, simply file for a name change motion before or after the divorce has been concluded. Remember the name of your children cannot be changed through the divorce process.

You can then use the divorce decree to effect a name change as desired. To change your name during the process of marriage dissolution if you did not request the change within the divorce petition you have to part with a fee of $100. Otherwise, if you go with the adult name change process you will have to pay a total fee of $180 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Naturalized name change

Adults who have gone through the entire process of naturalization can file a petition for a change of name with the Family and Probate Court and continue with the steps required to change their names as adults in Massachusetts.

Where birth certificates are in a foreign language other than English, a translated copy has to be included that bears the signature of a professional interpreter.

Immigrants who are working towards being naturalized can change their names through the process of naturalization in a procedure founded upon the federal law and thus different.

General adult name change

Once you have filed a name change petition with the court, it usually requests the Commissioner of Probation's Office to carry out a criminal record check for any individual seeking to change his or her name either 10 years old and above.

A publication is required as a public notice of the name change petition; the publication's citation is usually given by the court to the applicant. You must arrange to have a local newspaper publish the citation as per the instructions it comes with.

While mailing the citation, it's requested that certified mail with a return receipt be used. After mailing and having the notice published the original citation has to be returned together with the notice's newspaper clipping including the return receipt of the certified mail together with your signature to certify that the notice was published and mailed to the court.

Sometimes there is a compelling reason why a public notice should not be published. In such a case simply file a waive publication motion together with a sworn statement or affidavit indicating clearly why publishing the notice is not a good idea on your part. It's possible you will have to appear in court and present the reason before the judge.

Your case is likely to be heard as soon as possible as long as the Family or Probate Court you have filed the case in doesn't have a long case backlog.

Sometimes a hearing in person is not a must and once the service proof has been returned to the court and the date of return passed the case is usually taken before the judge. Once the judge has approved the name change a certificate is sent to you carrying the court's seal with the new name established.

Sometimes your petition can attract some objections to your desire to change your name and the court usually carries out a trial to deliberate on them. It's the prerogative of the court either to permit the change of name by entering a decree or reject the petition altogether.

Once the change of name petition has been accepted and upheld the Register of Probate usually gets the applicant a certificate that essentially establishes the new name.

The fees you need to change your name as an adult in Massachusetts include a filing fee of $150, a surcharge of $15, and Citation or notice fee for publication of $15 in case the court requires it. The grand total comes out to $180.

Child name changes

Whether you intend to effect a name change on an adopted minor or your own biological children, perhaps due to a divorce, the process of changing the name of a child in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a tad similar to changing the name of an adult.

Nonetheless, the first thing you need to do is obtain a minor's name change form from the court clerk's office in your local county in the Probate Court.

The name change form needs to be filled up with all the information required about the child. This includes such details as the information on the birth name, place of birth, address, name change reasons, and parental information. If the reason (whether explicit or suspected) for the change of name is to defraud, the court will deny the petition.

You can call the office of the clerk of the Probate Court within your county and submit the required documents via mail to the court. For the sake of record keeping, make sure you have all the document copies in order.

A name change hearing can then be scheduled as you materialize on the agreed date before the Probate Court carrying a certified copy of the birth certificate of the child, including your own identification. It's important that the court knows who you are through the identification.

The presiding judge needs to know the intentions why changing the name of the minor is important. The filed documents will then be reviewed by the judge before the request is either denied or approved. Once the request has been approved, the judge will indicate whether publishing a notice of the change of name is required in a local publication by a specific date prior to the enactment of the change of name.

Ensure the legal notice has been published in a local newspaper as required within a specific set date. Usually the court lets you know the local newspaper where the notice should be published. Get the published notice's copy and provide it to the judge. After proving to the court that you complied as required the court will have no problem but grant the minor's change of name; a legal proof will be sent to you indicating this has happened.

Change of name on birth certificate

In Massachusetts, legal change of name won't change the name currently appearing on your birth certificate. This is why it's advisable to keep the legal name change order from the court since you will probably need it to effect a name change with various bodies such as the Social Security Administration.

Name change on Social Security, RMV/DMV, IRS

After legally changing your name as a result of a court order, adoption, divorce or marriage you need to alert the Social Security Administration before you approach the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Massachusetts. If you don't do this the Registry might not be able to validate your social security number (SSN). The name can be changed in person, but never online.

Once you are through with Social Security, approach the Department of Transport's Registry of Motor Vehicles so that the changed named can be reflected on your ID card, driver's license, or REAL ID as fast as you can.

Approach the IRS in person or via mail for the same if your name change coincides with a change of address. If your address has not changed, the Social Security Administration will alert the IRS of your name change on your behalf.

Name change on non-governmental institutions

It's also important to effect a name change on other nongovernmental bodies to make your records seamless and uniform. You don't want your tax returns to be rejected due to a mismatched name.

Informing all the right parties will ensure your life goes on as usual if not much better. Simply approach your insurance company to change your name, including financial institutions such as banks, your current employer, and academic institutions to see if any of your academic documents can be changed.

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